Reader James L. recently asked in the Learning Science Weekly Community about published studies supporting the efficacy of blended learning. I’ve covered a few studies here that focused on blended learning in different scenarios, but this is certainly not exhaustive -- there are so many articles to read.
I will say that there’s an opportunity to study the efficacy of blended learning experiences in the field of customer education, but I’m actually wondering how prevalent that delivery method is. If you’re in customer ed and have incorporated blended learning into your program, I’d love to hear from you -- email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're not a part of the community, join us! Head on over to the Learning Science Weekly site, create a free login, and click on Community. This one’s for you, James, and thanks for subscribing!
Blended Learning: Impact on Knowledge and Practice
In a study that assessed the impact of a blended learning program on Belgian pharmacists' knowledge and counseling practice related to preconception, pregnancy and lactation, researchers found that a combination of e-learning and in-person training improved participants’ short- and long-term knowledge and partially improved their counseling practice. Note that there was not a control group and this was not a between-groups design, so there’s no way to know if this same effect would have been seen in a group that participated in training that had only one modality or was provided no training at all.
Key Takeaway: Blended learning did improve knowledge, but in this case, only marginally improved actual practice.
Read More ($): Ceulemans, M., Liekens, S., Van Calsteren, K., Allegaert, K., Foulon, V. (in press). Impact of a blended learning program on community pharmacists’ barriers, knowledge, and counseling practice with regard to preconception, pregnancy and lactation. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy.
Blended Learning: Cheaper and Effective
There’s a whole medical theme here. In a quasi-experimental study design conducted in Ethiopia, researchers assigned medical providers in need of obstetrician training to a blended learning (12 days of offsite training followed by daily SMS and weekly phone calls) or conventional learning (18 days of offsite training followed by a facility visit to mentor participants) condition. By comparing pre-test results to 3-month post-test results, researchers concluded that the blended learning approach was as effective as the conventional one at increasing providers’ knowledge. The blended learning program was also 38% cheaper to administer than the conventional learning program.
Initially, I questioned this study -- would the combo of a daily text message and weekly phone calls really constitute blended learning? I included it because of the following explanation from the article: “Experts with deep experience in teaching and service provision developed targeted, relevant text messages to boost providers’ knowledge of obstetric functions. A server was programmed to send one of these SMS messages to providers’ mobile phones each day. Some of these texts were multiple-choice questions that asked for a reply. After receiving the provider's response, an automated feedback system sent another message noting the right answer and offering further explanation. … In addition to SMS texts, providers in the blended learning group received a phone call at least once a week, during which trainers discussed difficult cases encountered in the real clinic setting. During these phone calls, providers also had an opportunity to discuss any SMS messages they found confusing or unclear” (Yigzaw et al., 2019). This looks like an excellent implementation of both blended learning and spaced practice, a learning strategy that has a ton of empirical support.
Key Results: Blended learning was as effective as conventional learning in this study and (bonus!) was cheaper to implement.
Read More ($): Yigzaw, M., Tebekaw, Y., Kim, Y. M., Kols, A., Ayalew, F., & Eyassu, G. (2019). Comparing the effectiveness of a blended learning approach with a conventional learning approach for basic emergency obstetric and newborn care training in Ethiopia. Midwifery, 78, 42-49.
Blended Learning: Effective for Language Instruction
In a study that investigated the effect of blended learning on future Iranian nurses’ English language skills, researchers concluded that this type of program had a significant positive impact, compared to an online-only group and an in-person-only group. Why? They posit that blended learning provides an opportunity to supplement the instruction given in limited classroom time, allowing instructors to focus on giving rich feedback to learners and allowing learners to have opportunities to practice with in-class peer partners.
For practitioners, researchers give the following instructional design advice (edited for clarity):
- Provide instructional content using pedagogical methods appropriate to the subject and audience
- Make appropriate use of whole-class, small group, and pair work
- Incorporate frequent opportunities for students to answer and expand upon responses to questions in-person, providing rich feedback
- Use supporting resources to define local terms
- Provide varied lesson activities, and
- Have a positive attitude towards students and belief in their capacity to learn
Key Results: Blended learning was a more effective way for these students to increase their English language skills.
Read More ($): Moradimokhles, H., & Hwang, G.-J. (2020). The effect of online vs. blended learning in developing English language skills by nursing student: an experimental study. Interactive Learning Environments, 1–10.
Reminder: Paywall Articles
You may notice that a lot of the articles I review are marked with a ($) to indicate that they’re behind a paywall. It sucks, I know. But, don’t despair! Before you pay for an article, explore the following options:
- Check with your local public library about getting the article (often for free) through their publicly-available databases or through InterLibrary Loan. You’ll generally need a library card (also usually free), which may require a visit to an actual location, but it’s so worth it -- libraries are amazing. (I speak from my own experience… but as a former librarian, I’ll admit I’m biased!)
- Contact the researchers. Their email addresses are often included in the article information available online, and they’re usually more than happy to share -- after all, these articles often represent months (if not years) of their life’s work.
Pets of Learning Science Weekly
When I ask for pictures of your beloved pets, you deliver!! Thanks to all of the readers who submitted photos this week. It was hard to choose just one! I randomly selected this adorable glamour shot (remember those?!) of Sophie Love, the 6-year-old rescue pup companion of reader Caylin W. If your pet wasn't selected this week, don't worry -- they're in the queue!
Send me (hi, I'm Julia) your pet pics at email@example.com.
Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!
The LSW Crew
Have something to share? Want to see something in next week's issue? Send your suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org